Action Report from Toronto

Written by Brant Olson

Topics: Frontline Communities

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Check out this report on a surprise awards ceremony at the Sustainability Challenge Conference earlier this month from Jess and friends in Toronto:

After fighting traffic for over an hour, Lila, Meagan, Shannon and I pulled into the circular driveway of the Wyndham Bristol Place Hotel, a four-diamond hotel located next to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Inside, logging industry executives and policy makers were meeting for the 7th annual Sustainability Challenge Conference. This year’s conference was sponsored by Weyerhaeuser in clear attempt to greenwash their shocking record of environmental destruction and disregard for the rights of indigenous communities where they log.

One at a time, Shannon, Meagan, and I entered the hotel lobby and strolled nonchalantly past the welcome table, hoping that our fake name badges wouldn’t arouse suspicion. As Lila sat in the getaway car, we managed to discretely make it into the main conference room with fistfuls of flyers and a giant gold-painted chainsaw smuggled under our coats. We snuck discretely to the back of the conference hall and waited quietly for the perfect moment to disrupt the meeting.

As a seemingly endless power point presentation droned on, we scanned the room. The speakers onstage were watched by a roomful of well-groomed executives in expensive suits. As we watched them sitting and taking quiet notes, we wondered how they would respond to our action and our demands.

Finally, the speech ended and the chair stood up to take the floor. Shannon and I locked eyes and knew the time was right. Shannon stood up and walked purposefully toward the microphone. “Attention ladies and gentlemen,” she shouted, “We are here on behalf of the First Nations Community of Grassy Narrows to present Weyerhaeuser with the prestigious Golden Chainsaw Award for environmental destruction and disrespect for the rights of Indigenous peoples!”

I pulled the golden chainsaw out from under our pile of coats, and held it up while parading up and down the aisles. Meagan, meanwhile, handed out flyers to the dumbstruck audience. Shannon then went on to read out an excerpt from a letter that the people of Grassy Narrows had sent to Weyerhaeuser. The discomfort in the room was palpable as Shannon boldly declared that “If you choose to continue engaging in, or profiting from, the destruction of our homeland, know that you will face a fierce campaign against you on all fronts- in the woods, in the streets, in the market place, in your boardrooms, and in the media.”

Shannon finished the excerpt from the letter and thanked the audience members for their time. The three of us then collected our coats and walked out of the meeting. As we left, we heard the chair stumble over his words, explaining that our disruption had not been a part of the planned conference schedule, but that he and his fellow Weyerhaeuser executives were in fact looking into the situation at Grassy Narrows and hoped to have it resolved in the near future.

As we drove home, we knew that the action had been a great success. Not only had we forced a room full of decision-makers to listen to the compelling letter presented by the community of Grassy Narrows, but we had also made it clear- on their own turf, in front of their own colleagues- that we were serious about stopping Weyerhaeuser’s destructive practices.

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